WMD's Armchair QB: Growing Up Edition

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

Dawgs Fall Short in Upset Bid

Peeps, we flat missed our chance to shock the world last night. As I said last week, I HATE losing. I'll never be happy about it. But once again, there were a ton of positives to take from the game. What really stood out to me was how much difference just one player can make by his presence or absence. To the points:

Defense:

1. I couldn't be more proud of the job these guys did last night. They did literally everything possible to win the game alone except score. They never quit and kept giving the offense the ball and chances to score. We also held Bama to their season low for points scored. Just an absolutely outstanding performance.

2. THAT'S Mayhem: 7 TFLs, 7 QB hurries, 1 sack, 4 TOs. Nasty.

3. Our front 7 is ridiculous. We held Bama to 196 yards rushing, which is just under their per game average. And about half of those yards came on 2-3 big plays. We also generated pressure with the front 4 without having to blitz.

4. Chris Jones is an absolute beast. Was he really just in high school a year ago? He gave Bama's OL fits all night and got our lone sack. Bama had to double him frequently. And he did a really good job getting his hands up and forcing McCarron to have to alter his throws.

5. Beni Brown is going to be special. He's big and scary fast. Very much like the elite Bama LBs on the other side of the ball. He also does a good job fundamentally of tackling.

6. Special shoutout to my fellow University of South Panola alum Kendrick Market. This guy was everywhere last night. 10 tackles, 2 TFLs, and a forced fumble. He's quietly become one of the best players on our D. I'm very, very excited about his future.

7. I'm not a big fan of our zone. It's a little soft and gets exposed. But part of that is how good McCarron is at seeing it and finding the right guy. Still, I wish we'd go man more often.

8. Overall, our DBs had a good night. Most of the pass yards came in the aformentioned zone. Wish we'd manage our rotation better, though. Jiles got beaten again and Justin Cox continues to just be plain bad.

9. Taveze Calhoun gets a special mention. He picked off McCarron twice and was excellent in coverage all night. The first pick snapped a string of something like 120 pass attempts without a pick by McCarron.

10. Jamerson Love HAS to come up with the pick-6 he dropped. You want to upset #1, you have to make that play when it's there to be made.

11. The one thing that made me upset: Giving up the TD right before the half. That was the 5th time in 10 games we've given up a score to the opponent right before half. It was another big turning point and momentum swing in the game. We've got to stop that if we want to take the next step. This was the play where Jones took the wrong gap in his run fit and it sprung Yeldon loose for 50. True frosh makes a mistake, we pay with points. The good news is that CJ will learn from it.

12. Really loved our gameplan to take away the run and force Bama to throw. Other than 2-3 breakdowns, one by a true freshman, we executed it about as well as we could have hoped. Geoff Collins is doing an outstanding job. Get the man his raise.

Special Teams:

1. For the second week in a row, this phase of the game was an absolute disaster. Dan, PLEASE fire yourself and go hire someone who can actually coach STs. If you can't win the ST phase, you have no shot at beating one of the big boys and taking the next step.

2. Sobiesk might be as bad as Bell. Missing a 23-yard chipshot? Are you kidding me? This has gone beyond embarrassing to just plain comical. Seriously, why even bother kicking a FG at this point? When we get inside the 35, just go for it on 4th down the rest of the season. We clearly can't get 3 at this point.

3. Tubby was awful. He constantly misjudged the ball all night. The bobble that put us back at the 21 instead of getting it around the 50 was a huge swing in momentum. I cut him some slack because he's been good back there the rest of the season. Still, you have GOT to make the plays when they're there to be made.

4. Why can't we put Tubby & Holloway back returning kicks at the same time? Probably makes too much sense.

5. Had a couple of short punts, but they were into a VERY stiff wind. Can't believe I'm the one actually asking this, but......why was it Baker punting with that wind instead of Bell? Bell clearly has the stronger leg and has impressive hang time in his own right. Very odd.

Offense:

1. As I said in my opening, it's amazing the difference one player can make. We have been averaging 450ish yards of offense with Dak at QB. Last night we didn't make it to 200 total yards. I wouldn't have expect 450 against Bama's D, but I think 300 would've been doable. We also barely rushed for 50. If we can't run the ball, we can't win and we especially can't beat a Bama.

2. Personnel, personnel, personnel: I might have to be committed if I see us try to run Perk up the middle one more time on the goal line or in short yardage. Those touches need to go to JRob and Shump. I love Perk, but he isn't anywhere near physical enough to grind out those tough between the tackles yards, especially against an elite defensive front like Bama.

3. I thought our overall offense gameplan was solid, considering we didn't have Dak. Lots of quick and intermediate routes to get the ball out of TR's hands quickly.

4.  Last night was a microcosm of TR's career: He played solid, but wasn't good enough to win. He made a few big time NFL throws, but when it mattered, he threw an absolutely awful interception into triple coverage. Then he took an awful sack in the 5-wide package because he held the ball too long.....resulting in ANOTHER injury. And he still runs like a wounded giraffe. The fumble into the endzone that Siddoway recovered was just plain bad as well. It sounds mean, and it kinda is, but frankly TR is soft. I'll always be grateful to him for choosing to play here instead of Bama or SCar, because he clearly bleeds maroon. But we'll be a better offense without him.

5. Without the QB as a threat on the inside veer, our run game is just plain bad. It's an insult to call it a "zone read" when TR is QB. Bama completely ignored him all night and rightfully keyed on our RBs.

6. Our WRs have got to make plays. Too many drops last night, especially in the 4th Quarter. I'll cut Bear a little slack because he's a true freshman. But Tubby had 3 catchable passes and dropped every one of them.

7. Malcolm Johnson finally had a big night. He was solid and didn't drop a single pass that I remember.

8. Liked the use of the diamond, even with TR. It plays to the strength of our offense, OL & RB.

9. More Nick Griffin as FB, please. Been saying this for 2 months now. He could be every bit as good or better than Jay Prosch at Auburn in that role.

10. I was very impressed with Damian Williams. For a true frosh being thown into the game against #1 Bama and told "go win the game" with 7 minutes left, he looked very poised. He had 5 pass attempts: 2 were poor throws, but catchable. 2 were right on the money and dropped. The last was thrown away to avoid the sack. The one thing I would say is he has to be a little more decisive about pulling the ball down and running. But overall, I liked what I saw. I'll be completely honest here: I'm not sure we wouldn't be about as good or better offensively with Williams at QB as we are with TR at QB.

11. We have GOT to score when we're in the redzone and capitalize with points on turnovers. That was probably the primary difference in the game last night.

12. I could be forgetting one, but I don't remember a single pre-snap penalty last night. Very clean game from that aspect, huge improvement from previous weeks.

13. I thought the offensive line was outstanding, given the opponent and our QB. They only allowed 1 sack, and that was TR holding the ball too long, as discussed before. I was disappointed we weren't able to run better, but not surprised. All in all, good job by those guys. More Jamaal Clayborn, please.

Coaching/Miscellaneous:

1. Our first possession inside the redzone was terrible. We had the ball 3 plays from the 2 and this was the sequence: Perk up the middle, Pass, 5 WR Pass. Way too cute. Run the damn ball with JRob and Shump. If those two can't get 2 yards on 3 carries, we don't deserve to score anyway. RUN THE DAMN BALL, Mullen.

2. The disaster that is our "Special" Teams falls directly on Mullen. He's the ST Coach and it's directly attributable to him. The failure to not have an SEC caliber kicker at this point is utterly pathetic.

3. Three things Bama never does: Hold, commit PI, or target. Let me be clear: I NEVER expect to get a call against Bama. It's part of playing them. You know up front you have to beat them AND the refs. But when a guy has his jersey stretched about a foot or a WR is wearing his DB like a coat, you've got to call it. And if the hit on Holloway wasn't targeting, there is no such thing. Just do away with the penalty if you won't call it. Totally ridiculous. We know you're doing a "job" for the SEC, but c'mon man!

4. The refs also sucked at game management. They were slow to blow the whistle the entire night. You'd have a RB driven back 5 yards, forward progress clearly stopped, and they'd wait to blow the whistle. They let the game get chippy in the 2nd half with that BS, then tried to rein it in when it was almost too late and their fault in the first place. And last time I checked, you had to have a foot inbounds to make a catch. Or possession/control of the ball. For the record, I'm not blaming the refs for our loss. We lost because we couldn't take advantage of 3 opportunities in the redzone or capitalize on 4 TOs with points. But they didn't help.

5. We played hard to the end. Mullen coached to win to the end. We just didn't have the horses to pull off the upset. I still firmly believe we win with a healthy Dak at QB.

6. We seem to have come out of the game mostly healthy. TR is the only known injury. PJ Jones seemed to tweak an ankle or something, but he kept playing so I assume it wasn't anything major.

7. The crowd was on fire. Big props for showing up, being loud, and doing your part. It made a HUGE difference. And it was an electric atmosphere for the recruits in attendance. Need that effort again for the Egg Bowl. Just one gripe: QUIET WHEN WE'RE ON OFFENSE. You should be able to hear a pin drop when we have the ball. Rest your voice, then get loud when we're on defense. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years.

8. We saw a lot of young guys grow up and make plays last nights. They just didn't make enough to win. But there is no doubt we're improving every week. I still think we win these last 2 and get bowl eligible.

9. WMD needs to get this off his chest: It seems the narrative now is that State didn't play that well, Bama played that poorly. I've seen it in the media and amongst our own alleged fans. Ridiculous. We played our tails off and displayed serious guts and heart. We forced Bama into their mistakes. Have some pride and confidence and give us credit instead of trying to find a way to discredit how well we played. You want respect? Stop accepting the premise that we couldn't have played that well, it HAD to be the other team sucking. Respect how we played and demand that others acknowledge we played well. Because we did.

10. Mullen hit the nail on the head in postgame last night. WMD's paraphrase: We're a middle of the road SEC team looking to take the next step. We want to win championships and won't stop until we do. But the margin for error is crazy small. Taking the next step from yearly bowl team to competing for the SEC West means stepping up to competing for a National Championship with the way our division has been the last 5 years. That isn't exactly a small step. I don't know why that is so hard to grasp.

You know the drill. Fire in the hole!

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD

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